Adoption Leave Policy

  1. Eligibility and benefits
  2. Annual leave
  3. Pension arrangements
  4. Salary progression
  5. Continuity of service
  6. Keeping in touch days
  7. Returning to work
  8. Procedure and timetable

Form: Adoption Leave Application Form (Office document, 36kB), Keeping in touch day form (Word 21Kb).

Further information: University of Bristol Work and Family pages


1. Eligibility and benefits

1.1 Adoption leave

If all the other eligibility criteria are met, adoption leave is potentially available to:

1.1.1 Eligibility

a) Adoptive parents

52 weeks’ adoption leave is available to any member of staff, regardless of length of service with the University, who has:

b) Dual approved prospective adopters (“fostering for adoption”)

52 weeks’ adoption leave is available to any member of staff, regardless of length of service with the University, who:

If a placement with a dual approved prospective adopter does not proceed to a formal adoption then entitlement to adoption leave/pay will end either 8 weeks after the placement ends, or at the end of the adoption leave/pay period, whichever is earlier.

If a dual approved prospective adopter is entitled to adoption leave/pay when a child is placed with the family for fostering, then they cannot access further adoption leave/pay in respect of the same child if the adoption goes ahead.

c) Surrogacy (‘Parental Order’) parents

52 weeks’ adoption leave is available to any member of staff, regardless of length of service with the University, who:

1.1.2 Allocation of adoption leave for couples

In the case of a couple jointly adopting a child or jointly fostering a child for adoption, only one person in the couple can take adoption leave and they are known as the ‘primary adopter’. The partner of the primary adopter may be eligible for paternity leave and pay and/or shared parental leave and pay. To qualify they will need to have completed at least 26 weeks’ continuous service ending with the week in which they are notified of having been matched with a child, and meet any other criteria under the relevant policy.

Similarly, in the case of Parental Order parents, only one parent in the couple can take adoption leave/pay. The other parent may be eligible for paternity leave and pay and/or shared parental leave and pay. To qualify they will need to have completed at least 26 weeks’ continuous service ending with the 15th week before the baby’s birth, and meet any other criteria under the relevant policy.

1.1.3 Start date of adoption leave

In the case of adoptive parents, adoption leave must begin on the date that the child is placed for adoption (i.e. the date the child joins the family) or up to 2 weeks before that date.

In the case of fostering for adoption, adoption leave can begin at any time from two weeks before the child is expected to be placed with the family but must be taken within 52 weeks of the date the child is placed for fostering for adoption. 

In the case of Parental Order parents in a surrogacy arrangement, adoption leave must begin from the date of the baby’s birth (or the next day if the employee is working on the date of the birth).

1.1.4 Time off to attend adoption/antenatal appointments

Employees who are adopting or fostering for adoption, and who have at least 12 weeks’ continuous service at the University, are entitled to paid time off to attend adoption appointments in the period between being notified of a match and the child being placed with the family for adoption. A single adopter is entitled to paid time off to attend up to five adoption appointments in this period.  In the case of a couple, one adopter is entitled to paid time off to attend up to five adoption appointments and the other adopter is entitled to paid time off to attend up to two appointments.  If an adopter takes paid time off work to attend more than two appointments they are classed as the primary adopter and are unable subsequently to take paternity leave.

Employees who are Parental Order parents in a surrogacy arrangement are each entitled to take paid leave to enable them to accompany the surrogate mother to up to two antenatal appointments.

1.2 Adoption pay

Adoption leave and pay are separate entitlements.  Entitlement to adoption pay will depend on length of service and earnings, and on whether or not the employee returns to work following a period of adoption leave.

1.2.1 Occupational Adoption Pay (OAP)

Adoptive parents (and employees who are fostering to adopt) will be eligible to receive University of Bristol Occupational Adoption Pay (OAP), which is inclusive of Statutory Adoption Pay (SAP), if two criteria are met:

OAP may also be exceptionally agreed in cases where the child is over statutory school age as determined on a case-by-case basis by the Director of Human Resources.

Parental Order parents who are intended parents in a surrogacy arrangement will be eligible to receive OAP if they have completed at least 26 weeks’ continuous service for the University, regardless of the number of hours worked, at the 15th week before the expected due date of the baby.

For anyone in receipt of OAP, a further condition is that the employee must return to work at the University following the period of adoption leave, in a full or part-time capacity, and subsequently continue in employment for at least three months.  Annual leave accrued during adoption leave which is subsequently taken on return will not count towards those three months. The University reserves the right to reclaim all the non-statutory elements of pay if an employee fails to return for this period of time. Eligibility to Statutory Adoption Pay (SAP) remains unaffected, regardless of whether the individual returns.

Employees who qualify for Occupational Adoption Pay can choose between the following two options:

OAP Option 1

 OAP Option 2 

1.2.2 Statutory Adoption Pay (SAP)

Employees in either of the following scenarios will not be eligible for Occupational Adoption Pay but may be eligible for Statutory Adoption Pay:

To qualify for SAP, an individual must:

Statutory Adoption Pay is determined by the government as follows:

1.2.3 Unpaid Adoption Leave

Employees who have less than 26 weeks’ service at the end of the week in which they are notified of a match (or in the case of Parental Order parents, as at the 15th week before the birth of the baby) will be entitled to up to 52 weeks’ unpaid adoption leave. 

1.2.4 Availability of adoption leave and pay

Adoption leave and pay are only available to one parent (the primary adopter). The other parent might be eligible to take paternity leave and pay and might also be eligible for shared parental leave and pay, depending on their circumstances. This applies whether parents work for the same or different employers.

1.2.5 Situations where these arrangements are applicable

In the case of adoptions, these arrangements only apply to situations where a member of staff is matched with a child who is placed for adoption within Great Britain. Similar provisions apply when a child is adopted from overseas, although the detailed application of the scheme differs slightly. Members of staff in these circumstances are advised to contact their HR Manager.

1.2.6 Failure of staff member to return to work and continue in employment

The University may reclaim the whole or part of any Occupational Adoption Pay element over and above Statutory Adoption Pay (SAP) if the member of staff does not return to work at the end of the adoption leave and subsequently continue in employment for at least three months.

1.2.7 Combination of payments

No combination of payments shall exceed full pay.

1.2.8 Tax, national insurance, and superannuation

All adoption pay is subject to tax and national insurance, and where appropriate, superannuation.

1.2.9 Sick pay

Employees will not qualify for sick pay while they are on adoption leave.

1.2.10 Eligibility to work

Employees are not eligible to work while on Adoption Leave (with the exception of the 10 optional “keeping in touch days” – see below).

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2. Annual leave

Where it is agreed that an employee will return to work on the basis of reduced contractual hours of work, the employee’s new reduced hours should not normally take effect until any leave accrued under the previous contractual hours has been taken. This effectively means that an employee may officially return to work on X day, take their outstanding holiday accrued at their previous (eg full-time) contractual hours and then physically return to work and start their new reduced hours on Y date.

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3. Pension arrangements

Staff on adoption leave will continue to be members of the relevant pension scheme.

If the employee is in the Pension Salary Exchange Scheme

If the employee is in the Pension Salary Exchange Scheme, the OAP will be based on reference pay and the employee will therefore be no worse off. The employee will continue to participate in the Pension Salary Exchange scheme while in receipt of OAP, unless they opt out of the scheme under a lifestyle event (please refer to the Pensions Salary Exchange Scheme for details). For each of these individuals the amount exchanged will be based on the OAP actually received, so during periods of half pay, the amount exchanged will be based on the half pay received. The University will make up the employee’s contributions and pay employers’ contributions as if the individual were on full pay for the period.

It is not possible to salary exchange from statutory pay. Therefore, when in receipt of SAP only, SAP cannot be reduced under Salary Exchange. However, the University will pay the additional pension contributions while in receipt of SAP only, as if the individual were on full pay for the period.

Higher rate SAP will be based on adjusted pay in accordance with statutory requirements. Where staff are entitled to SAP but not OAP, the Pensions and Payroll team will opt members out of Salary Exchange for the period to prevent any reduction in the higher rate of SAP.

During periods of unpaid leave (ie no SAP), it is not possible to participate in the Pension Salary Exchange Scheme since the employee will not be in receipt of any earnings. Therefore the employee will need to complete an opt-out form. If the employee wishes to maintain their employee pension contributions in relation to this period, they may do so outside of the Pension Salary Exchange scheme, in which case the University will then pay the employer contributions. The University will only pay contributions if the employee does the same. This will be outside of the Pension Salary Exchange Scheme.

On their return from unpaid adoption leave, the employee may rejoin the Pension Salary Exchange Scheme where appropriate, by completing an opt-in form. The Payroll and Pensions Office will contact the employee directly regarding this at the appropriate time.

If the employee is not in the Pension Salary Exchange scheme

If the employee is not in the Pension Salary Exchange Scheme, when in receipt of full pay the employee’s contributions will be deducted as usual. During periods of half pay or Statutory Adoption Pay, employee contributions will be deducted according to the total amount of pay received. The University will make up the employee’s contributions and pay employers’ contributions as if the individual were on full pay for the period. It should be noted that during periods of unpaid leave (ie no SAP) the University will only pay contributions if the employee does the same.

There is a certain amount of flexibility regarding pension payment arrangements. Advice should be sought from the Pensions Office.

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4. Salary progression

On return to work the employee’s salary will be reviewed to take into account any increment, or general increase which would have applied had they not been on adoption leave.

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5. Continuity of service

The contract of employment continues throughout adoption leave. Continuity of service will not have been broken by an unpaid period of absence. Therefore, entitlement to periods of notice, holidays and sick leave which accrued at the beginning of adoption leave will not be lost.

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6. Keeping in touch days

Employees may, by agreement with their line manager, undertake up to 10 days' paid work, referred to as “keeping in touch days”, during their adoption leave. Such days may be undertaken at any stage during the leave period. The type of work undertaken is a matter for agreement between the employee and their line manager. The days may be used for any activity which would ordinarily be classed as work under the employee’s contract, and could be particularly useful in enabling an employee to attend a conference, undertake a training activity or attend a team meeting. Keeping in touch days are optional and can only take place by agreement between both parties.

Keeping in touch days do not extend the statutory or occupational adoption pay period in any way. For instance, if a keeping in touch day occurs during a period of full pay, no additional payment will be made. If a keeping in touch day occurs during a period of half pay or SAP only, this will be effectively “topped up” so that the individual receives full pay for the day in question.  Payment for keeping in touch days will only be made after completion of the day’s work.

All employees may undertake up to 10 days’ work, with the agreement of their line manager, regardless of whether they are full-time or part-time. Where an employee works for less than a full day, this will still count as one keeping in touch day for the purposes of the 10 days maximum, although payment will only be made for actual hours worked.

Employees wishing to undertake a keeping in touch day should complete a keeping in touch day form and forward this to their line manager in the first instance.

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7. Returning to work

Employees may exercise the right to return to work at any time during the period of leave. They will have the right to return to the same or a comparable job with the same terms and conditions as if they had not been absent. If they return prior to the end of the leave period they should give at least 8 weeks’ notice, in writing, of their intended date of return. If the employee fails to give the required notice, the University may postpone the return for up to 8 weeks.

Although returning to work on the basis of an alternative working pattern or hours of work is not a right, the University of Bristol will give sympathetic consideration to such requests, on either a temporary or permanent basis, from employees returning to work following adoption leave. They should submit a request in writing (via a flexible working application form) as early as possible, but not later than 8 weeks before the notified date of return to work.  Any change must be discussed, and agreed with their line manager. The possibility of flexible working arrangements, which may include arrangements for establishing a job share, may be discussed with their manager in conjunction with Human Resources & Staff Development.  Should the job content and responsibilities of a revised role differ significantly to those of a previous role, the grading of the post may be reviewed.

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8. Procedure and timetable

a) Adoptive parents and dual approved prospective parents

b) Parental Order parents (intended parents in a surrogacy arrangement)

Members of staff are required to give at least eight weeks’ notice of the date on which they intend to return to work if it is earlier then the end of the adoption leave period.

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Updated August 2016